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Reaction to husband's WE Fest death was 'heartless,' widow says

Troy and Bonnie Lee are shown in an undated submitted photo. Troy Lee was found dead in a camper during WE Fest on Friday, August 7, 2015.

Having her husband 45 miles away at a noisy country music festival when she was stuck at home wasn’t Bonnie Lee’s idea of the greatest way she could be spending her birthday.

But when he checked in with Bonnie on the phone, it reminded her why she’d married peaceful-natured, hardworking Troy in the first place, after meeting him at a karaoke bar in Duluth 16 years ago.

He was at WE Fest with her in mind—working security there once again, for the first time since meeting Bonnie, to earn extra spending money for the couple for a long-planned trip to see Rodney Carrington perform in Mahnomen, Minn., next month.

“The first year he goes back, on the first day,” said Bonnie Lee, two days after Troy Lee’s niecediscovered the 49-year-old’s body inside her camper at a WE Fest campground.

Her voice is tired and sad. “He liked being home. He loved being a grandpa.”

The grief and shock of losing her husband unexpectedly is compounded by the initial public reaction, voiced on social media, that Troy Lee’s death must have been linked to alcohol or illicit drug use.

That early theory, fueled by years of pu

blic perception of excessive alcohol use at the Midwest’s largest country music festival, was debunked by officials who reported Lee’s death was neither alcohol nor drug-related. Nor was it by Lee’s own hand, his widow said Sunday.

Officials previously told The Forum that no foul play was suspected and that an autopsy would be performed.

But the uninformed public comments still sting.

“I just think people are so judgmental, so shallow-minded, so heartless,” said Bonnie Lee. “Do they ever think about the people they’re hurting?”

There is a contrast between the public’s assumptions about Troy Lee’s behavior at WE Fest and what was actually going on just before he died. The truth, his widow said, is that he’d consumed nothing more adult than graham crackers and milk before he’d gone to bed that night.

It’s as striking as the contrast between the quiet, privacy-loving Troy Lee and the very public nature of his life’s end.

Bonnie Lee describes her husband as a longtime Cargill employee who was just happy his WE Fest duties coincided with his love of classic country 

music and desire to see Hank Williams Jr. perform.

For Troy Lee, a devoted Harley Davidson enthusiast, a local bike club is organizing a ride in his honor, on August 30, the day before he would have turned 50.

Bonnie Lee said she supports law enforcement’s efforts to crack down on excessive alcohol use during the WE Fest weekend.

She said WE Fest officials are not at fault for concert-goers’ behavior, and do what they can to control safety.

“People’s behaviors are people’s behaviors,” she said. “I do think Troy is getting a bad rap.”

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